As large metropolitan areas fail to provide sufficient bike lanes, appropriate infrastructure, and visible signage, news about accidents and big settlements continue to fill the pages of the media. The city of Los Angeles, which was once haven for cyclists, has just agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a bicyclist who was severely injured on its roads.
The days of LA's cycleways are long gone; they were left by the wayside after the automobile revolution.
Today, Los Angeles city, like many others throughout the country, is often unsafe for cyclists. Three years ago, William Yao became another victim of this dangerous situation when he suffered a dramatic crash in Porter Ranch.
Yao’s accident was due to failing and hazardous infrastructure. As he rode on an appropriately marked bike lane on Reseda Boulevard, one of his bicycle's tires hit a section of pavement that had been lifted by the root of a nearby tree.
Yao was thrown from the bike and landed on the pavement. Although he was wearing a helmet, the accident left him quadriplegic.
Like many tragic bicycle accidents, Yao's could have been prevented.
Before the crash, the city of Los Angeles had received numerous complaints about the dangerous condition of that particular section of the road. According to an internal report, the Bureau of Street Services was aware that the road needed repairing, but had labeled it a “non-emergency.” It was their failure to respond that ultimately caused Yao’s accident.
Right before the accident, there had been an inspection of the road and no one had reported “the substandard bike lane.” The internal report also stated that the LA Department of Transportation had installed the bike lane in spite of the road surface's non-compliance with the city's standards.
According to the text of the report, they “merely placed the painted white lines, traffic signs and surface arrow markers without examining or repairing the road surface.”
Sadly, this is a common occurrence all across America. The fact that bike lanes are in place is not always a guarantee that people can safely ride on them. As long as officials are willing to overlook substandard bike paths, accidents like Mr. Yao’s will keep happening.
And no matter how many millions the city shells out after the fact, William Yao will never recover the use of his arms and legs.
Dozens of complaints are filed over bicycle accidents every year in Los Angeles, California. Recently, a string of large settlements has put the city's dangerous roads in the spotlight. Barely a month before the settlement in Yao's case, another cyclist who had suffered a brain injury as a result of a crash received a $6.5 million settlement.
The estate of another cyclist who died after hitting uneven pavement in Eagle Rock earlier this year received a $4.5 million settlement.
The recurrence of multi-million dollar settlements like these can sometimes compel city officials to be more mindful of much-needed repairs. Perhaps anticipating the financial burden of potential new settlements and verdicts, LA recently announced it would spend $25 million on fixing its most neglected streets.
Upon the announcement of the $7.5 million settlement with Yao, a spokeswoman for the LA Department of Transportation commented, "This was a horrific incident and we are committed to making our streets safer... Our current practice is to install bike lanes only on road surfaces that are in good condition.”
For Councilman Paul Krekorian, there is a “sense of urgency” to address the risks presented by LA's least safe streets.
It’s frustrating that people have to die in order for cities to finally offer safe bike lanes and roads. My hope is that other jurisdictions, including some cities with a high rate of cyclist deaths here in Florida, will learn from this and follow suit.
Photo: Public domain